Many say we are long overdue for “Immigration Reform”. With “sanctuary cities” and reports of violent immigrants in the news every day, it is not to difficult to “take sides” when discussing immigration in our country. Recently, a woman was killed in San Francisco by an illegal immigrant with a felony record, and this has brought immigration reform to the forefront once again. Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco released a statement saying, ““While it is important that we learn from this incident and work to prevent it from happening again, it is also important that we recognize that the vast majority of immigrants — both those with and without papers — are not a violent threat to society and so should not be subject to guilt by association” (EWTN News, 2015). He is right and this is not the first time immigrants have been stereotyped and portrayed as some evil scourge that will destroy our country. In fact, there have been many different examples of immigration propaganda throughout our history. If any one of these “immigration reforms” had worked in the past, many of you would not be reading this post today.
For example, in 1882 the hostility toward Catholic immigrants and the policies in place to discriminate against them were so vile, that Father Michael J. McGivney founded the Knights of Columbus in an effort to show that allegiance to our country did not conflict with our faith and to to unite men of Catholic faith in order to help provide for those less fortunate and the families of deceased members (Knights of Columbus, 2015). Also in 1882 Congress passed, and President Chester A. Arthur signed into law, the Chinese Exclusion Act. The Chinese Exclusion Act prevented any Chinese immigrants from entering our country for ten years, thereby creating government policy to exlude entry to our country by a specific ethnic group (Harvard College, 2015). This act was the first major law restricting immigration to the United States, but it was also the beginning of a long history of governmentally authorized prejudicial and discriminating views about those who wished to seek a better life in America. By 1896, journalists were labeling immigrants “a hopeless burden” that would breakdown and destroy the very fabric of our nation (The Atlantic, 2015).
The Immigration Act of 1903 prevented people with epilepsy and beggars from entering our borders, while the Immigration Acts of 1906, 1907, 1917, and 1918 further tightened restrictions by focusing on disabled people, undesirables (aka Catholics, Irish, etc), and those who could not speak English. The Immigration Acts of 1921 and 1924 introduced the idea of immigration quotas, thereby restricting or even freezing all immigration from any particular country based on the ethnic disctribution of that population within the United States at the time (U.S. State Department, n.d.). Since 1903, there have been more than 23 pieces of legislation designed to limit, restrict, control, or even completely stop immigration to our nation. Most of these laws were created out of indifference, hatred, discrimination, fear, and loathing of a particular ethnic group.
As you can see, our current situation with the need for “immigration reform” is not a new one. In fact, we have been instructed how to handle immigration for a very long time. The greatest commandments instruct us to love the Lord, our God, with all our heart, with all our soul and with all our mind, and to love our neighbor as ourself (Matthew 22: 37-39), and God promises judgment against those who swear falsely, those who oppress the widow and the fatherless, those who cheat the wage earner, and those who deny justice to the foreignor (Malachi 3:5). Archbishop Cordileone concluded his statements by saying, “Such reform, long overdue, should preserve family unity, ensure the due process of law, protect those fleeing persecution and ensure the integrity of our nation’s borders” (EWTN News, 2015). We still have a lot of work to do when it comes to immigration reform, and maybe it should begin with a reform of our own hearts.
EWTN News. (2015). Archbishop Cordileone to Congress: Immigrants Are Not All Guilty by Association. Retrieved from http://www.ncregister.com/daily-news/archbishop-cordileone-to-congress-immigrants-are-not-all-guilty-by-ass/#ixzz3gjF9hftx.
Harvard College. (2015). Chinese Exclusion Act (1882). Retrieved from http://ocp.hul.harvard.edu/immigration/exclusion.html.
Knights of Columbus. (2015). History: 1882-1899: The Founding. Retrieved from http://www.kofc.org/un/en/about/history/.
The Atlantic. (2015). Racist Anti-Immigrant Cartoons From the Turn of the 20th Century. Retrieved from http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2011/11/racist-anti-immigrant-cartoons-from-the-turn-of-the-20th-century/383248/.
U.S. State Department. (n.d.) Milestones. Office of the Historian. Retrieved from https://history.state.gov/milestones.